CHICAGO (CBS) — A 60-year-old man has been charged with vandalizing the front doors of a Pilsen church earlier this week.
Police said Robert Samar, of the 2300 block of South Seeley Avenue, was caught on surveillance video when he painted a swastika and the words “burn and kill” on the door of Lincoln United Methodist Church, near 23rd and Damen early Sunday morning.
Samar was arrested Wednesday, and charged with one felony count of criminal defacement of a place of worship.
Pastor Emma Lozano said Sunday’s act of vandalism was the sixth time the church has been targeted. Lozano said the church, which has a largely Latino congregation, was targeted twice with hateful graffiti in back-to-back days after Easter.
The pastor said it’s believed to be a sign of the times, politically.
She said vandals painted racial slurs on the front door of the church, where it says “Holy Ground” and I.C.E. free-zone, referring to U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.
“The day after Easter, to write ‘rape Mexico’ on the door of my church,” Lozano said.
The pastor said it happened again the day after, when swastikas were also scrawled on the door.
On Easter, the congregation was in the news as the Rev. Jesse Jackson delivered the sermon, surrounded by families fighting deportation orders.
“It was a beautiful service, to wake up to the following day to this rhetoric on my church,” Lozano said.
She said she believes this is a symptom of inflamed election cycle.
“It’s part of the political climate, the rhetoric of the candidates that are coming out and that saying ‘deport all of the Mexicans, Mexicans are rapists,’ this is fueling that courage. We’re gonna beef up security, but we’re not going to be afraid,” she said.
It was not immediately clear if Samar was suspected in the earlier acts of vandalism at the church.
He was due for a bond hearing Friday afternoon at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse.